The Rays have designated right-hander Yonny Chirinos, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). The move is to open an active roster spot for left-hander Shane McClanahan, who has been reinstated from the injured list. Additionally, the club also reinstated infielder Yandy Díaz from the paternity list and optioned infielder Jonathan Aranda in a corresponding move.
Chirinos, 29, has been serving in a bulk role for the Rays this year, often following an opener. He’s tossed 62 2/3 innings over 15 outings, posting a 4.02 earned run average in that time. His 7.6% walk rate and 43.2% ground ball rate are each pretty close to league averages, though his 11.8% strikeout rate is barely half of the 22.7% mean for major league hurlers this year. His .244 batting average on balls in play and 76.5% strand rate have perhaps helped him keep earned runs off the board this year.
It’s likely that Chirinos has deserved worse results, as shown by his 5.52 FIP and 5.31 SIERA, but he has had better stuff in the past. From 2018 to 2020, he tossed 234 1/3 innings with a 3.65 ERA, striking out 20.9% of opponents while walking just 6% and keeping the ball on the ground at a 42.8% rate. But he then had a significant absence, primarily due to Tommy John surgery, missing over two years from August of 2020 until September of 2022.
The results haven’t been quite as strong since that injury layoff but it’s still a bit surprising to see the Rays cut him from the roster since pitching depth has been an ongoing challenge for them this year. Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs were each supposed to be part of the rotation but neither will return this year as both have undergone season-ending surgeries. Shane Baz underwent Tommy John surgery late last year and hasn’t been an option all year. Josh Fleming is also on the 60-day injured list as he deals with an elbow issue.
In addition to those serious ailments, the club has also had to navigate IL stints for McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow and Zach Eflin, though each are now active with today’s transactions. They form the rotation nucleus alongside prospect Taj Bradley. That still leaves the club one arm shy of a traditional five-man rotation, so there would seemingly be a role for Chirinos, though the Rays evidently have other plans. Perhaps they would simply prefer to deploy some bullpen games or call upon someone like Cooper Criswell to take over as a bulk guy.
It’s also possible that the Rays are confident in their ability to add pitching prior to the August 1 deadline. The list of names generally thought to be available in the next two weeks is very pitching heavy and the Rays have already been connected to some of them. If they are successful in lining up a deal, then their current rotation gap would only be present for a short time.
However they decide to proceed, it’s possible that this move was spurred by Chirinos no longer being optionable. He is in his final option year and was optioned a couple of times earlier this year but has now surpassed five years of major league service time. Players who go beyond that milestone cannot be optioned to the minors without their consent, meaning the Rays had to designate him for assignment if they wanted to remove him from the active roster.
The Rays will now have one week to trade Chirinos or pass him through waivers. Though his results this year haven’t been astounding, it’s possible some club is willing to bank on his past results, especially given the number if pitching injuries around the league. He’s making a modest $1.275MM this year, leaving about $521K left to be paid out. He can also be retained for one more year via arbitration, which should add to his appeal. In the event he clears waivers, he would have the right to elect free agency while retaining all that salary, a right held by all players with more than five years of service time.